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‘Inheritance’ scammers raked in $2.6 million from 60 victims on Guam



By Pacific Island Times News Staff

If it is too good to be true, it probably is,” reads the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s warning against a fraudulent scheme dubbed “advance fee” scam.


Despite the authorities’ repeated warnings about all sorts of internet fraud, four swindlers managed to pull off the “advance fee” scam on Guam, netting a total of $2.6 million.


“This far-ranging conspiracy preyed on 60 victims, nearly all of whom live in Guam,” U.S. Attorney Shawn N. Anderson said today, announcing the sentencing of four people who have been convicted of money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy charges.


Prosecutors said the four defendants induced Guam-based investors to first pay bogus fees and other expenses purportedly associated with a multimillion-dollar inheritance before they could collect any promised funds.


“These scams are difficult to investigate and prosecute due to the interstate and transnational nature of the criminal activity. Our success in this matter is the result of a team effort across multiple jurisdictions,” said Anderson, the U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas.


According to authorities, an “advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value, such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift, and then receives little or nothing in return."


The scheme, typically initiated via email or text messages, is also interchangeably known as “419” or “Nigerian scam.”


“We will continue to pursue the collection of restitution for those harmed by the defendants' conduct. The public must remain vigilant against this type of fraud," Anderson said.'


U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour today sentenced Okechukwu F. Iwuji, a Nigerian citizen, to 45 months in prison.


The three other defendants, Sally Cruz Roberto, Monique Jones and Mekayda D. Jones, were sentenced on Aug. 15.


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Roberto obtained $1,030,990 of victim funds and used her bank account to wire those funds to stateside bank accounts of other co-conspirators, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. She was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 38 counts of wire fraud.


As part of the conspiracies, Monique and Mekayda Jones maintained bank accounts in the names of shell corporations to receive, withdraw, and transfer victim funds to other co-conspirators in the United States and Nigeria. In exchange, they kept at least 10 percent of victim funds that flowed into bank accounts they controlled.


Monique Jones was given a 48-month prison term, and Mekayda Jones, 36 months.

Iwuji, who previously resided in Orlando, Florida, obtained at least $475,710 of victim funds from Roberto and other co-conspirators and transferred some funds to third-party Nigerian bank accounts.

“This sentence should make the public aware that these types of advanced fees, associated with inheritance scams, will be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill. “If it is too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel you have been scammed, please contact the FBI at (800) 225-5324 (CALL-FBI) or report it to tips.fbi.gov.”

The investigation was led by the FBI Guam Resident Agency with the assistance of FBI field offices in Dallas and Atlanta; Homeland Security Investigations in Orlando, Florida; the U.S. Secret Service in Dallas; and the Guam Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Marivic David, first assistant U.S. Attorney and Criminal Chief in the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.




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